With the 2023 general elections over, attention has now shifted to Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa States for the off-season governorship elections.
In Kogi State, over ten members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, lined up to succeed incumbent Governor Yayaha Bello who is completing his second tenure in office.
However, on Thursday, Governor Bello endorsed the state Auditor General, Usman Ododo as his preferred candidate.
InfoStride News reported that the Chairman of the election committee, Governor Mohammed Bello-Matawale confirmed that a “gentlemanly agreement” was reached.
Consequently, Deputy Governor Edward Onoja, ex-Finance Commissioner David Adebanji-Jimoh, Ashiru Idris, Okala Yakubu, Abdulkareem Asuku (Chief of Staff) and Accountant-General Momoh Jibrin withdrew from the race.
Bello’s endorsement of Ododo, who is from the same Kogi Central and of the Ebira ethnic group, confirmed the suspicion many had that the governor was planning 16/16.
At the conclusion of the primary election, Ododo emerged as the APC flagbearer.
Ododo polled a total of 78,704 votes to defeat six other contestants in the governorship race.
He defeated the distant runner-up, Barr. Mohammed Ozigi Salami, who got 1,506 votes, while the Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Smart Adeyemi, polled the least number of votes – 311.
Background on Kogi guber seat
The state has three major ethnic groups— Igala in Kogi East, Ebira in Kogi Central and Okun in Kogi West.
Kogi East has nine local government areas: Idah, Ibaji, Igalamela/Odolu, Ofu, Dekina, Ankpa, Olamaboro, Bassa and Omala local governments. While Kogi central has Adavi, Ajaokuta, Okehi, Okene, and Ogori-Magongo.
Kogi west has seven local government areas- Kaba Bunu, Kogi/Koto Karfe, Mopa Muro, Ijumu, Yagba East, Yagba West and Lokoja. However, Kogi/Koto Karfe and Lokoja are dominated by minority groups.
From 1999 to 2015, Kogi East produced all the governors— Abubakar Audu, Idris Ibrahim and Idris Wada. In 2015, Yahaya Bello emerged after the death of Audu.
There have been speculations that Governor Bello plans to ensure that an Ebira man succeeds him so that his zone can complete 16 years of uninterrupted stay in power.
Move to use ADC
Many expected James Faleke, the running mate to Abubakar Audu, to join the race as a group even reportedly bought the N50 million nomination form for him; however, he did not show up during the screening exercise.
Insiders within the APC told the media that the president-elect, Bola Tinubu asked Faleke not to join the race in order to reward Bello for his role in the presidential election. Faleke’s ambition could put Tinubu and Bello at loggerheads.
Faleke continues to call for the zoning of the position to Kogi West.
“Kogi Central by the end of the tenure of Yahaya Adoza Bello would have been in the saddle for 8 years, uninterrupted. While not discounting the right of those concerned to contest for any office, I believe that the time has come to be just and fair to all,” he had said.
However, Bello’s endorsement of Ododo has foreclosed any argument on Kogi West.
InfoStride News learnt there are moves in Kogi West to push a member of the House of Representatives in Kogi West, Leke Abejide as a third force to stop Bello’s plan.
Although Dino Melaye is also from Kogi West, Abejide appeals to many in the zone for several reasons. In 2019, he won the House seat under ADC. Again in 2023, he won re-election and even sponsored another ADC candidate in Ijumu/Kabba/Bunu Federal Constituency.
“BVAS has changed the electoral game in Nigeria. Look at Alex Otti in Abia— Abejide is already battle-tested, twice. In 2019, at the peak of Yahaya Bello’s influence, he won his Reps election. And in 2023, it is no secret that he not only won re-election but ensured the spread of ADC,” Leadi Abdulahi, a supporter of Mr Abejide told the media.
However, there are others within the state that believe that it is only an Igala candidate that can wrestle power from APC and Bello.
With nine local government areas, the zone has a strong voting block.
But Melaye seems to have the support of Atiku Abubakar and the national body of the party ahead of Sunday’s primary.
In the coming days, the alignment in the state may be away from party loyalty to ethnic loyalty.
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